“The annoying kid at the cinema”


So, this happened …

I was sitting in the cinema with some friends, watching a movie. It was a Friday night so the cinema was quite full. We’d managed to get seats roughly halfway down to the screen. Further back would have been better, but we still could take in the whole screen and lose ourselves in the story.

And I did.

That is, until the first piece of popcorn hit the back of my head.

Bloody teenagers! They had to show how cool they were by annoying everyone else in the cinema, and I was certainly annoyed. There was a bit of a buzz around me, I guess others were being hit too. I figured they’d stop, so I said nothing.

But it didn’t stop. The guy was clearly emboldened from the fact that no one had spoken out to him, so he threw another piece. And another.

They weren’t actually that far back, I could hear their giggles clearly just a few rows behind me. By this stage I was seething, and had completely missed the last couple of minutes of movie dialogue. So I did what any normal person would do: I lost my temper!

I stood up, turned around, pointed my finger at the guy, and said aggressively, “Stop that!” Then I held my glare (and my pointing finger) a little longer, and then sat back down.

After 10 seconds, just as I was starting to relax, another piece of popcorn hit me on the head. But I sat there and I clenched my teeth. I didn’t react or threaten him again. And then, nothing. That was it, that final piece of popcorn was the last one. Slowly I slipped back into the fantasy world, and really enjoyed the rest of the movie.

I realized afterwards what had happened: that guy had to save face. He was the cool kid annoying the other patrons, and when I shouted at him, I embarrassed him in front of his friends. So to show his friends that he was still cool, he made a final effort of throwing one last piece of popcorn.

He probably knew if he tried that again, some adult (almost certainly me!) would be up and in his face, and he’d be embarrassed yet again. And I knew that if I had reacted to that one additional piece of popcorn, I would likely escalate the situation, and he’d have to up his game to stay cool in front of his friends.

So he threw it. And I ignored it. And it was over.

We could now all relax and lose ourselves in the movie. And he could still be the alpha, albeit a non-annoying one.

Simple Definition

The annoying kid at the cinema: When someone gets called out for bad behavior, as a final effort to still feel in control (or to demonstrate control to others), they push that bad behavior one last time. Ignore it, and the situation usually defuses by itself. React to that final act, and the situation will escalate.

Discussing what it means


Many year ago in London, companies started becoming more aware of “respect in the workplace”. This isn’t to suggest it was a highly offensive work environment everywhere until then, but there was definitely room for improvement – both in terms of making people more aware of others’ feelings and more specifically to give more structure to what shouldn’t and mustn’t be said or done.

Many companies were hiring law firms and consulting firms to provide half-day or full-day training about this topic for staff. My friend was an attorney who did many such sessions for companies over the course of a year, and had a lot of interesting stories to tell.

To give you a sense of what kind of things were deemed disrespectful in an office environment, here are some examples as best as I can remember them:

  • Don’t tell any of those jokes which begin “An Englishman, Irishman and Scotsman go into a bar …”. The joke will be at the expense of one nation, and you are likely to offend someone of that nationality in the office.
  • Don’t tell jokes which begin “A Priest, a Rabbi and an Imam …” because you will probably offend someone in your office too.
  • Any joke that portrays a colleague (usually female, but anyone actually) in a sexual light is completely off-limits. For example, if a colleague approaches you with a document, saying “Can you fill this in?” you definitely should not say “That’s what you said to me last Saturday night.”
  • Do not discuss the results of the Durex Global Sex Survey at the office, and most certainly do not giggle that XYZ country is smaller than average. This is true even if there is no one from XYZ country in your company, but even moreso if there is because of the offence and embarrassment you will cause.

When he initially started leading these training sessions, my friend noticed that for the first couple of hours of the day, there were a lot of inappropriate jokes being made, pretty much along the lines of the examples I’ve given above. These were exactly the jokes that he was standing at the front of the room telling them not to make, and yet that’s precisely what people were doing. However, after a bit, people seemed to get it out of their system, and the jokes disappeared. (Not just died down, but totally disappeared for the rest of the day.)

He also learned the hard way that when someone made unacceptable jokes at the start of the day of training, and he called them out for it, this would usually cause tension in the room to escalate, which was then hard to defuse. Those people would, as a show of strength, continue making off-color jokes the rest of the day, not letting up at all. He learned to ignore that disrespectful behavior at the start of the day, finding that it allowed people to get that one final ‘push’ off their chests, and then everyone could settle into respect.

After hearing his experiences, I recounted to him my experience with “The annoying kid at the cinema”. In the same way as that boy, when reprimanded, had the gut reaction to throw one more piece of popcorn (which I ignored and he just stopped after that), so too my friend saw that play out in most ‘respect’ training sessions he gave during that time.

Government tensions

I didn’t realize it as the time, but this story – “The annoying kid at the cinema” – became a #hashtag-story that I have used many times since then to make exactly this point, long before I formalized such stories into the #HashtagYourLife system.

I’ve used this one in particular many times over the years to make the point about how one government will react when reprimanded for doing something deemed ‘inappropriate’ by another government, mostly recently when watching the ongoing interactions between Trump and Kim Jong Un.

I’m sure you can think of a few examples yourself of this taking place.

Person to Person

Of course, “The annoying kid at the cinema” is common between a parent and child, and it’s amazing how young children are when they start exhibiting this behavior! For example, I remember telling my 2 year-old to stop banging on the table with her spoon. She paused, stared me right in the eyes, then banged her spoon again really hard. She waited for my reaction while maintaining her icy stare, but I said nothing. Then she quietly looked away, and carried on eating as if nothing had happened.

And what about couples where one partner likes to have the last word, especially when they’ve been reprimanded for saying or doing something. The attitude of the annoying kid comes out, they have their say, and as long as the other partner doesn’t react, then it’s over. Of course, if the other partner does react to this ‘last word’, then things can (and do) deteriorate rapidly.

If you really care about peace, about getting past stress points, then your awareness that such situations are just “The annoying kid at the cinema” is essential to being able to let go, and not react to the final push-back.

On the other hand, if you haven’t #hashtagged this behavior in your own life, then you will miss these opportunities to end things calmly, and instead you become partly responsible for the escalating fight.

Do you want to get past the stress? Or do you want to ‘win’? You get to decide.


I first came across the expression “Last Minute Resistance” in The Game by Neil Strauss, a book that reveals the inner workings of a secret seduction society.

(By the way, that book uses a #HashtagYourLife-like tagging methodology to great effect. I could talk about ‘negging’, ‘last minute resistance’, and ‘opinion openers’ and many of my readers will instantly know what I’m talking about, which proves my point.)

The book explains that when ‘seducing’ someone (male or female), a point can be reached where progress suddenly stops and the person brings everything to a halt. If you push back against this last piece of popcorn, there is the strong chance that you get ejected, and things really do end there. But if you ease off a little and allow the person to compose themselves and to feel in control again, and then start to progress again, you have a much better chance.

At least, that’s what I’ve read.

But, since seduction is a form of selling, LMR does actually apply to traditional selling. Sometimes you will be making great progress with a sale, and the person will suddenly brings things to a stop. You then have the choice of pushing back hard to re-enervate the sale (like if I had reacted to that final piece of popcorn) and risk losing everything. Or you can back off, and let the person consolidate their thinking. When they feel like they’ve had a chance to convince themselves again that it makes sense, when they feel less rushed, when they feel in control again, then that resistance could soften, and you have a chance to wrap things up nicely.

This is not doubling-down

I do want to make a quick point to say that the behavior described in “The annoying kid at the cinema” is different to Doubling-down as described in #[This margarine (gagging!) is delicious].

Doubling-down would be when you call someone out for racist behavior (for example) and rather than backing down after one final dig, they push harder for longer with their racist attitude. Please be clear on the difference – because when you let that last comment slide, in the one case that’s enough to allow the situation to defuse, whereas in the other case it gives the person confidence to push back harder.

Know the difference!

Making it personal

Normally in this section I will ask you to think about what situations have occurred (and are still occurring) in your life where the #hashtag-story (in this case, “The annoying kid at the cinema”) well represents events. And if you’d like to take a moment to think about it, then please go ahead. Today you don’t need me to help with that.

Instead, today I would like to talk a little about how you can use the knowledge of this annoying kid – how he reacts and how best you should respond – to your maximum advantage.

  • Firstly, you need to be aware when it’s happening, so you can flag it as “The annoying kid at the cinema”, and know what to do.
    • What are the tell-tale signs that the person is indeed reacting, and making one final effort? If they do what someone has just told them not to do, that’s a clear indication – but what other signs can you think of?
    • How can you tell this is about a final one-off effort, and not their doubling-down?
  • Secondly, how big is this an issue in your life?
    • Do you often get that apparently last piece of popcorn in sales situations? And when it happens, do you usually lose the sale? In dating situations, where you’re trying to get to the “next level”, do you get LMR there too? Is that where it normally goes wrong? How have you been responding?
    • Regardless of the situation, if that last piece of popcorn being thrown is actually them bailing out by making some kind of excuse – do you usually believe their excuse? Or do you usually see the excuse as just that – something they’re saying to justify their behaviour, even when it might not really be a big issue? Now would be a great time to read #[It’s not about the typo].
    • If you are failing (in sales, in dating), and yet you’ve convinced yourself that you’re responding the right way (when all evidence is to the contrary) then you will probably benefit from reading #[Pigs on my birthday cake].
  • Thirdly, when they throw that piece of popcorn, when they suddenly bail on the sale, when they attempt to get the last word … you know you should just stand down.
    • Don’t respond, don’t react, don’t say anything, don’t pull funny faces, don’t sigh deeply, don’t storm off, don’t tsk them, don’t push back, don’t try change their mind, don’t reprimand them.
    • The question is … what is the feeling that you are likely to feel rising inside you that would make you screw this up? Anger is a common trigger for reacting in such a situation when you shouldn’t, is that true of you too? If not, then is it a sense of righteousness, a desire to be correct? Are you desperate to have the last word? Are you scared of failure? Does backing down make you feel weak? Is it a desire to punish the other person, to teach them a lesson, that over-whelms you?
    • The better you understand what’s happening inside you every time you trigger “The annoying kid at the cinema” the better your chance to remain in control, and to get the outcome you want.

Once you’ve pondered the above, make a point of deciding to do this correctly, the next time you face “The annoying kid at the cinema”. Just having thought about it, which no doubt you did while reading this chapter, you are already much better prepared to recognize the situation when it happens, and to let it slide, as appropriate.

You can be the one to move forwards by backing down.

Related stories

#[It’s not about the typo]

#[Pigs on my birthday cake]

#[This margarine (gagging!) is delicious]

#[It was never the chicken’s fault]